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Wednesday, June 17, 2009
With stability, Grove hopes to be Miami's rock


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

DAVIE, Fla. -- What's the best thing about the Miami Dolphins to new center Jake Grove?

 
  Kevin Terrell/Getty Images
  Center Jake Grove says he's looking forward to a fresh start with the Dolphins.

They're not the Oakland Raiders.

"I'm excited for a fresh start here," Grove replied when I asked him how much difference there was between the clubs.

Grove then paused and thought before adding, "I would just say the offensive minds that we have here, the coordinator and the coaches and the ability Chad Pennington has to run the offense, that's what I'm most excited about."

In Grove's five seasons with the Raiders, they went through four head coaches and three offensive coordinators.

Quarterbacks? Oh, Grove saw a few of those in his time there. Rich Gannon, Kerry Collins, Marques Tuiasosopo, Aaron Brooks, Andrew Walter, Daunte Culpepper, Josh McCown and JaMarcus Russell all started.

"There's just so much turnover in Oakland," Grove said. "The stability that I feel here, I'm real excited about that."

Grove was Miami's top offseason acquisition. Football operations boss Bill Parcells and head coach Tony Sparano considered their previous center, Samson Satele, a liability in the run game and not physical enough against 3-4 nose tackles.

Football analyst KC Joyner graded Satele at a pedestrian 79.5 percent success rate on point-of-attack run blocks last year. It was the worst rate of any Dolphins regular. Joyner determined Grove's success rate was 90.6 percent.

"I like his aggressiveness," running back Ricky Williams told the Palm Beach Post reporter Edgar Thompson. "He jumps those nose guards. It's nice because that's where everything starts."

The Dolphins loved what they saw of Grove on film. Although he didn't play against them, AFC West teams played their AFC East counterparts last year. He did well against 3-4 defenses.

The Raiders ran for 153 yards in a victory over the New York Jets. The Raiders were down 21-0 in the first quarter to the New England Patriots but still rushed for 116 yards in a loss.

"I think he is a tough, physical competitor," Sparano said. "He displays outstanding first-step quickness and the ability to play at the second level very, very well. With centers I think that is an important quality to have, playing at the second level and being able to get their hat on some of these mike linebackers in this league."

Grove has missed 26 games since he was a second-round draft pick in 2004. Early in his second season he suffered a right knee injury. He underwent surgery, but the knee kept troubling him. He opted for microfracture surgery after starting two games in 2007.

But the Dolphins gave Grove a five-year, $29 million contract. He knows that's a lot to live up to.

"When I was a younger guy in Oakland," said Grove, "I always said 'It doesn't matter what guys get paid. This guy could be making $100 million. He could be making $200,000. Anybody can make you look bad. Anybody can beat you on any play.'

"It doesn't matter what people think about you in this league. You have to bring it every single day."

I asked Grove if it was flattering to be courted by Parcells and Sparano, a couple of grunts who treasure offensive linemen like car aficionados behold Corvettes.

"Funny you should word the use flattery," Grove deadpanned on a 90-degree Sunday afternoon. "After the first warm-up of the first practice when I was out here in this heat I was, like, 'Man, this honeymoon is over. It's time to work.'"